A people's port is rising at the docks
Last week the New Ports Minister John Hayes visited the Port of Dover. He saw
the progress that has been made over the last few years and the real change we
have made together. It's important to remember that back in 2010 our port was
about to be sold off. The previous Government planned to sell it to the French
or whoever. When I was first elected all that was needed was the flick of the
Minister's pen and it would all have been over.
Since that time we've
come a long way. The battle against privatisation brought together the
community, port workers and trades unions. It saw the foundation of the People's
Port Trust with a plan to buy the port if the sell off was to go ahead. A
referendum was held in Dover. The result was emphatic on a higher turnout than
had been seen in the previous elections for the district council. Finally I took
the battle to Parliament and defeated the Government in a key Parliamentary
vote. After that Ministers decided that the sell off would not go ahead. Dover's
port would be Forever England.
That was a great victory. Yet there was
more. The campaign to save the port highlighted three serious problems. First
the port needed to be able to raise money for investment. We need a great modern
port fit to beat the competition from the Tunnel. Second people felt the port
did nothing for the town. There needed to be a community fund to benefit our
community. Third there needed to be a closer partnership between the port, port
users and the people.
Things had to change. Business as usual was not an
option. So some six months ago the previous Ports Minister, Stephen Hammond,
visited Dover to set out his plan. The port would have new powers to raise the
investment it needed to modernise and grow. Already the harbour revision order
for this has been passed. Port management have also set out an ambitious plan
for the Western Docks Revival with hopes to create 600 new jobs. A community
fund would be set up which is now happening. It will help provide support for
the skills, training and life chances of our young people. Finally he said there
would be community directors. The first of these is currently being
The new Ports Minister was deeply impressed by what he saw.
Much new investment is being made. There are plans for more. We've already seen
demolition ahead of the Western Docks Revival. We have the area around the
Marine Station in our sights. Alongside the moves to get Burlington House down
many of the building blocks for the greater future of Dover are now in place.
The next stage is to see through this change and transform our town.